Everyone knows about the Smoky Mountains, right? Did you know that there’s an equally beautiful mountain range just an hour west of the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Nantahala National Forest?
You may not know this about me, but I used to live on a farm in the itty bitty town of Brevard, North Carolina. We moved back to Miami after my father found it nearly impossible to find work, but we visited my family in Brevard and Hendersonville, NC, every summer.
Now that I have my own family, we spend as many vacations as we can in the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina, though we’ve begun to explore even farther west – as far as Deal’s Gap, which is about 10 miles from the Tennessee state line. Once my husband discovered Deal’s Gap, in Tapoco, NC, we have stayed in either Robbinsville, Cherokee or Maggie Valley when vacationing in the mountains.
While this part of Western North Carolina is far less touristy than the Asheville area, it is just as beautiful…and less crowded come the busy summer months. The last time I checked, Robbinsville had 3 motels and 3 bed and breakfasts – and a population of about 800.
While Cherokee and Maggie Valley are far more popular and have more activities (and casinos), we prefer the Robbinsville area because it’s quiet, relaxing and peaceful – and of course, it’s just about 14 miles from Deal’s Gap.
If you aren’t a motorcyclist, you probably aren’t aware of the most popular road in America (and Canada) for bikers. 318 curves in 11 miles.
It’s serious riding, y’all.
While I do enjoy the bike when we’re up here, I usually spend half my time in the SUV, exploring the back country roads and hiking in the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest. I’m not even the hiking type, but when I get up here, I slap on my sneakers and go.
It’s not strenuous hiking, and between the beautiful foliage, the waterfalls and creeks, I busy myself for hours exploring the forest and taking photos.
Sometimes I just drive along state road 28 or 129 (which leads to Deal’s Gap) and stop to photograph the numerous waterfalls and scenic vistas.
On this most recent trip, Chris and I booked a poolside cabana room at the Fontana Village Resort in, well, Fontana. We have been seeing the signs for years and finally decided that we would give them a try. We have stayed EVERYWHERE prior to this – we always stay somewhere new.
I think that changed with this trip. I had no idea how incredible the Fontana Village Resort was – it is actually a village! With a lodge, rental apartments, cabins, a fine dining restaurant, bar, grill restaurant, two pools, and numerous games, I could see us staying here for the week and not needing to leave. Especially since there’s also a general store, gift shop and ice cream parlor!
Full disclosure, I did receive a discount on our room rate, but this gushing, well, it’s all of my own accord. Keep your eyes out on Happy Travels for my upcoming review of the Fontana Village Resort as well as the Mountainview Bistro, the fine dining restaurant at Fontana Village Resort!
With it raining virtually nonstop while we were in Fontana, I was worried that we would be bored out of our minds…I mean, we went from 100% chance of rain to 90% – it rained almost constantly, 24 hours a day. Luckily, the rain was just a fine mist most of the time, and while the ground was too soggy for hiking, I had a grand old time hanging poolside (under the balcony) reading, and driving around seeing the sites.
One of my favorite areas was the Cheoah Dam, which I originally mistook for the Fontana Dam.
Oddly enough, when Chris and I did drive past the Fontana Dam, it was much less impressive. Imagine that!
See how pretty everything is, even though it’s raining? Imagine what it looks like in the bright summer sunshine!
When it’s not raining, there are plenty of outdoor activities to partake in, besides the listless wandering that I enjoy so much myself. Especially on Lake Santeelah and Lake Fontana. Some of the bed and breakfasts in this area (Graham and Swain Counties) even offer free canoes, kayaks and fishing equipment to their guests!
There’s ziplining, tubing, white water rafting, as well as camping, fishing, and a few small museums here and there – like the Junaluska Memorial Museum in Robbinsville, NC.
You can find out more about the Nantahala National Forest by visiting Visit NC or just drop me a line! As the tourist industry isn’t as developed in this part of North Carolina, there aren’t that many online resources.
I’ve spent time here each summer for the last four years, so I can answer most of your questions!